Alex Kozan is back, ready to help Auburn in 2015
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Alex Kozan is feeling better, thanks for asking.
The Auburn offensive lineman, who missed last season following back surgery, has been going through drills this spring, though the Tigers haven't let him participate in scrimmages and may not let him play in Saturday's 1 p.m. A-Day Game. That's OK. Auburn knows what the 2013 freshman All-American can do.
Auburn needs returning offensive starters, since the Tigers lost eight off last year's team, and Kozan fills the bill, though he's an extra year removed from his 14 starts at guard two seasons ago.
But Kozan said he learned during last year's inactivity because in 2013, "I just focused in on what I had to do. When I was out, I was able to kind of look at 'what does the halfback do?' 'What is the quarterback thinking?' 'What's the running back's read?' It kind of helps you get the bigger picture of a play, how a play is designed and how a play really works."
"His football IQ," says Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, "is very high."
"He's got a year under his belt of experience and played in some big games. It's just a matter of getting used to the speed of the game and everything that goes with it. He's a very intelligent player."
Reminder: Kozan, said Malzahn, was "a big part of our run game in 2013."
Now, in 2015, Malzahn says, "it's good to have him out there."
Kozan says his back "feels great."
"I feel 100 percent right now." And ready to get back into the games because last season was "I'm not going to lie: It wasn't easy. It was rough. But I was able to grow through that."
Kozan said he and defensive lineman Carl Lawson, who missed the season with a knee injury, were on the same, frustrating medical list.
"We both had to sit out the season and we both felt like we were about to have some pretty good seasons. So obviously it was disappointing," Kozan said. "But I was able to learn some things on the sideline, kind of take a step back and see the team from a bigger picture than just the O-line. So I earned some things. Obviously I would trade it to have played, but, overall, I'm just excited to be back."
Auburn has been cautious with Kozan, at least in the scrimmages.
"We're just trying to be smart with how we manage him through spring," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, "but the positive is he's been practicing ever since we got back from spring break with everybody else."
Timeout. The medical report just came in:
"I had a microdiscectomy," Kozan said.
The surgery was needed because of a herniated disk, and then there was talk of things like the L-4 and L-5 disk and the sciatic nerves.
"But I only lost like five percent of my disk, so, overall, I'm lucky," Kozan said.
And Kozan said he's especially happy to be "out there with my teammates, I love 'em all. And being able to compete again, you don't get opportunities to compete in life like you do in football. So being able to compete out there against a guy every play, it's awesome. It's fun."
Kozan said the offensive line has made progress this spring.
"We're certainly ahead of where we were in spring of 2013, so we've got a lot of guys that understand their jobs, and as a group we really have some talented guys," he said.
Kozan gives a favorable scouting report on fellow offensive lineman Shon Coleman, Devonte Danzey, Austin Golson, Xavier Dampeer and Braden Smith.
"Shon Coleman has had a full season to get under his belt and I think you're going to see some special things from him this fall. Devonte has gotten a lot better, he's really worked hard. Golson has kind of come in and helped secure that center job, along with Xavier. They're both competing and they've both stepped up their games. Braden is a freak athlete, so we got to get him where he's playing at full speed and getting everything down, but he makes some wild plays. Avery's proven himself; he's played here for four years now. I think as a group we have a lot of experience, a lot of guys that know what it takes to get it done. I'm excited about it."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine